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Recent Advances In Geriatrics: Drug-Related Problems In The Elderly

Joseph T Hanlon, Leslie A Shimp, Todd P Semla

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OBJECTIVE: To review recent articles examining drug-related problems in the elderly and comment on their potential impact on geriatric pharmacy practice. DATA SOURCES: Six articles published in 1997 and 1998. DATA SYNTHESIS: One study estimated that the cost of drug-related morbidity and mortality with the services of consultant pharmacists was $4 billion, compared with $7.6 billion without the services of consultant pharmacists. A study of ambulatory elderly patients with polypharmacy documented that 35% reported experiencing at least one adverse drug event within the previous year. Another study of ambulatory elderly found that in those with discontinued medications, adverse drug withdrawal events were uncommon. Two studies, one from Canada and one from the US, describe the development, by consensus, of explicit criteria for defining and identifying inappropriate drug use in the elderly (i.e., drugs to avoid, drugs with dose limits, drug–drug and drug–disease interactions). Finally, a modified Delphi survey of an expert panel reached consensus on 18 potential risk factors for drug-related factors in long-term care facility residents. CONCLUSIONS: Drug-related problems are considerable for elderly patients. Data from published studies should provide some guidance for today's practitioners as well as direction regarding future research.